Sometimes a book comes into the store that I know almost nothing about, and I can’t help but divert it into my own bag instead of putting it onto the shelf. That’s what happened with this short novel, by a Japanese-German novelist who writes in both languages. Despite the title, it’s the story of three polar bears, one who becomes famous in Germany for writing her autobiography, her daughter, who becomes a circus performer, and her grandson, who is raised by humans at the Berlin zoo. Tawada’s twice-translated language is both simple and strange, and so, thrillingly, is the place of the bears in human society: they slide back and forth, often in the same sentence, between being accepted without a second thought and being considered freaks. It’s a condition many humans might find familiar.
—Tom Nissley, Phinney Books, Seattle, WA